Eleven years ago, Sheikh Faisal was an engineering college dropout who was selling garments for a living in Pune. On Tuesday, Sheikh goes on trial in a special court in Mumbai as the prime accused of the 11/7 train bombings that ripped through the lifeline of India’s most frenetic metropolis and killed 187 people.
The 33-year-old is the alleged mastermind of a group of 13 people including a doctor, software engineer and medical representative, who are said to have set off the worst train bombs in Mumbai’s history. Sheikh is a key member of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, a Pakistan-based terror outfit.
What happened in the intervening 11 years has emerged from his 14-page interrogation report, prepared by the police after his arrest last year.
In February 2001, Sheikh was a garment-seller. A representative of the Student’s Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) contacted him during Friday prayers at a mosque.
Eleven months later, he was off to Pakistan for training by LeT. At the Lashkar camp in Muzafarbad, he met some top commanders, including Azam Chima. The Gujarat riots, the biggest pogrom in the history of modern India, threatened the secular fabric of the country at the time. Sheikh found out about the riots while he was in training. Nothing was ever the same for him again.
“They take all such examples for radicalising and brainwashing the youth for anti-national activities,” said K.P. Raghuvanshi, Anti Terrorism Squad chief.